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Keywords:

  • multivariate statistics;
  • stable isotopes;
  • tritium content;
  • Yarmouk basin;
  • Jordan

Abstract

Multivariate statistical techniques, cluster and factor analyses were applied on the Amman/Wadi Sir groundwater chemistry, Yarmouk River basin, north Jordan. The main objective was to investigate the main processes affecting the groundwater chemical quality and its evolution. The k-means cluster analysis yields three groups with distinct ionic concentrations. Cluster 1 comprises the vast majority of the sampled wells, and the water that belongs to this cluster can be classified as freshwater. Cluster 2 comprises only 2% of the sampled wells; it has the highest ionic concentration. The water of this cluster can be classified as brackish water. Cluster 3 involves 23% of the sampled wells, and it has total ionic concentration intermediate to that of clusters 1 and 2. Factor analysis yields a three-factor model, which explains 76.77% of the groundwater quality variation. Factor 1 ‘salinity factor’ involves EC, Na+, Cl-, SO4-2, K+ and Mg+2 and reflects groundwater salinization because of overpumping. Factor 2 ‘hardness factor’ includes Ca+2, HCO3- and the pH value and signifies soil–water/rock interaction. Factor 3 ‘nitrate factor’ involves only NO3- and points to groundwater contamination because of human activities, mainly untreated wastewater, and crops and animal cultivation in the unconfined portion of the aquifer. Factors 1 and 3 can be described as human-induced factors, whereas factor 2 can be described as geogenic factor. Factors' scores were mapped to deduce the controlling processes on the groundwater chemistry. Stable isotope composition of 18O and 2H has revealed that the groundwater is a mixture of two water types. The radioactive isotopes tritium and 14 C were used to evaluate present day recharge to the aquifer and to estimate the groundwater age, respectively. Present day recharge to the groundwater is taking place in the unconfined portion of the aquifer as it is indicated by the measurable tritium content and low groundwater age. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.